Kyoto Startup Digest 2018 – Ship&co.Kyoto Startup Digest 2018 – Ship&co.
Kyoto Startup Digest 2018 is documenting the Kyoto startup scene through a series of articles and videos by the following members of the KYOTO Design Lab and interns from the University of Texas.
International Shipping Made Easy
Overseas shipping processes can be long and tiring. For some vendors, having to manually copy and paste shipping details, especially customs invoices for international orders, often cuts into precious operating time. Meet Ship&co., the smart, simple solution that helps vendors breeze though this tiring process. From writing a daily French blog about life in Japan to opening his successful brick & mortar store, Bento&co., in 2012, Thomas Bertrand used his experience in e-commerce to develop Japan’s first shipping management platform. Ship&co. is a distribution service that creates hassle-free invoices and automates the logistics of shipping internationally and domestically all on a single interface. It’s simplicity makes it an attractive and efficient option for any one involved in e-commerce.
To use Ship&co., vendors must create an account and register their stores. Once this step is complete, Ship&co. will automatically sync all orders connected to the store. Everything is managed using just one integrated interface, further simplifying the process. The website allows one to manage shipments for multiple marketplaces, compare shipping fees, and print shipping labels for various delivery companies. Select the order, pick the carrier, and print the label: it’s that simple. Upon registering, the first 10 labels are free, after which users will need to choose a plan starting from the 11th label. For vendors working with several warehouses, Ship&co. allows multiple addresses to be registered under a single account. Some of the delivery services that can be used through the API are: DHL, FedEx, UPS, Japan Post, Sagawa, Yamato Transport, and YuPac. Shopping platforms they’ve integrated with include: Amazon, eBay, Next Engine, Magento, PrestaShop, Rakuten, Shopify, Stripe, and WooCommerce.
The store Bento&co. had been providing funds for the first 2 years of Ship&co.’s operation. The startup raised 100 million yen in pre-series A at the beginning of 2018 from Spiral Ventures. Services like these already exist in the U.S., but nothing of its kind was available in Japan until now, giving the company a nice edge in the market. What started as a tool to simplify his business ultimately led to web service that provides an almost too easy solution for creating time consuming shipping labels. Whether it be a few packages or hundreds of orders, Ship&co. wants to help businesses increase efficiency and link global e-commerce, one label at a time.
We spoke with founder and CEO Thomas Bertrand who talked to us about launching Ship&co. and its integrated shipping platform. Prior to Ship&co., Thomas Bertrand started Bento&co., an e-commerce store that focuses on Japanese bento boxes (lunch boxes) which was followed up with a physical store in the heat of Kyoto. Thomas has lived in Kyoto for 15 years, originally as an exchange student to Kyoto University.
What was the initial idea when starting Ship&co.?
Thomas: Selling bento boxes is just selling items, I like it and it’s good, we have customers all around the world and we work with great makers in Japan. Thanks to our experience in online international e-commerce, we have learned alot about logistics and e-commerce in general. From the beginning when I thought that we could make this service for ourselves, i also knew that it would be a new business and we could do something bigger and more interesting.
Do you have plans to scale the shipping service or expand into other services?
Thomas: We are now working to expand the business in other countries, especially Asia. One of our staff members is actually living in Singapore so we are trying to connect with Singapore Post. Singapore is a very big hub for logistics in Asia and there are lots of venture capitals. We might finish integrating with Australia Post services, probably doing VCF (Venture Capital Funding), which is really good for starting our customer base there. After that is hopefully France. It’s a lot of work because there are alot of services that you can do as a startup for logistics since there’s kind of an old market. There are a lot of big companies in logistics that still use old fashion technologies so there’s still a lot of business opportunities for us to bring to the logistics industries such as new services and solutions like software.
Why pick Kyoto? What makes this city unique?
Thomas: The first time I came to Japan was in 2002 for a 10-day trip, I went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and I really enjoyed Kyoto. The size is perfect, it’s big enough to have the shops and restaurants you want and still have the mountains and river so you feel like nature is close to you, it is easy to live. I was really happy when I found out that my university had a partnership with Kyoto University so it was not difficult for me to come here for one year and study. I picked Kyoto because I felt like the lifestyle was perfect here and I was right. I’m still here after 15 years and I really enjoy it.
Are there any prominent obstacles you’ve faced?
Thomas: When I go to Tokyo for events, it is much easier to meet people. In Kyoto you have some startups and big companies like Nintendo and Kyocera, but everyone here is quite focused on what they are doing. I go to Tokyo for business and to meet new people but I like Kyoto because we can focus on what we do. If I were in Shibuya, there are tons of things to do everyday but that won’t make new business. In Kyoto you can focus on what you do in your work and then in the evening you can go back home with your family and friends and relax, it is easier to relax here. It might not be the best for business but it is good for your lifestyle.
Do you have any advice for startups or entrepreneurs who are looking to come to Kyoto to start a new business?
Thomas: If you have an idea and think it’s going to work, don’t hesitate, just try it. Don’t wait for your service to be perfect to launch, launch as soon as possible even if it’s not really ready. In Japan, companies want to have perfect services before launching but for startups you should not wait until that. Everything is never perfect or finished, it’s never ending so just launch a soon as you can and take care of the problem afterwards. In Kyoto the lifestyle is great and there are many Universities here so you can find many students whether Japanese or foreign. The rent is much cheaper than Tokyo, Osaka is close, and if you have to go to Tokyo it’s only two hours from here, so it’s perfect for life and work.
Check out Ship&co. here